F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

11Mar09


Glitz. Glamour. A love that has survived the War. Extra-marital affairs. Grand parties. Opulence. Alcohol. A yellow Rolls Royce. Chauffeurs. Friendship… and New York in the 1920s (the ‘Jazz’ age). This pretty much sums up ‘The Great Gatsby’ – a classic piece of literature from the 20th century.

The story revolves around the rich and glamorous party-goers in New York in the 20th century – in a time when alcohol has been prohibited, when the economy is buzzing (post World War I), and when people are enjoying life to the fullest

The book starts off on a note that grabs the reader’s attention, and instinctively makes them want to flip over the page, to figure out what the narrator is ‘reserving judgment on’:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’

And then the story kicks off, with the introduction to Jay Gatsby – the narrator’s (a 22 year old Nick Carraway) wealthy neighbor. Gatsby is an important part of the circle of the rich and famous socialites in New York. Holding alcohol-heavy parties regularly, which carry on ’til the wee hours of the morning, where people turn up, invited or otherwise, Gatsby seems to be at the heart of the socializing. However, ironically enough, he never seems to be drunk or an active part of these parties – instead, he seems to be a mere spectator. No one seems to know who he is, and when Nick asks, people look at him puzzled.

However, there are rumors about Gatsby – his lineage, where he comes from, and where he has earned his money. People indulge in hyperbolic assumptions and wonderings, which Nick himself is fascinated by. However, as the story progresses, Gatsby tells our narrator about why he purchased his place – it’s bang opposite Daisy’s house across the river. Daisy, Nick’s cousin, used to be Gatsby’s lover prior to the war, but when Gatsby left for the War, she married Tom. Tom, also opulent, comes across as obnoxious and arrogant; much unlike Gatsby. He boasts of his mistress, and in fact, insists that Nick meet her.

Gatsby clearly has just one mission: to sweep Daisy off her feet, and make her leave Tom. Tom, in all his arrogance, cannot deal with this, and the book ends tragically, where we come to see that all the wealth in the world doesn’t buy friends, and people are quick to judge based on nothing; where people act without thinking of the consequences, and how jealousy and anger combined result in an act of ultimate unfairness. It’s this ending that makes the book as heart-achingly sad and depressing.

This beautifully written book vividly brings to life the society of New York in the 1920s. From the fact that women are meant to be beautiful and not much else (I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. –  Daisy on her daughter) to, people indulging in idle gossip about their host. It highlights the jealousy of a jilted lover, and the passion of an old one. It stresses on pride and money, of opulence and fair-weather friends.

The prose itself is almost like poetry, with some philosophical meanderings, and thought-provoking quotes. A powerful book, this book has made an impression me, like very few other books have.

Overall, an 8 on 10, and a must-read. I’m off to find another book by Fitzgerald now, and it’s much to my dismay that due to his death at a relatively early age, there aren’t that many.

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2 Responses to “F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby”

  1. Hmm, I’ve read a few short stories by Fitzgerald and ‘Tender is the Night’, but nothing could ever really compare to Gatsby. Then again, don’t you rather think the power/beauty of Gatsby emanates from its pitch-perfect portrayal of the Jazz Age? Once he’d accomplished that, maybe he didn’t have any more masterpieces to pop out? Bit crude, but probably true.


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